Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Woohoo! (aka Attachment Parenting Sleep Training, Part 3)

We did it! 10 days of the hard part (plus the 3 weeks before) later...and Jadon successfully went to bed by himself last night!!! Yay!!! We did our normal 20-ish minute routine, including 2 stories, prayer, 3 songs, and a minute or 2 of cuddling...and then I was done before 9:45! No escape attempts, no tears. Jadon just stayed in his bed. This is a huge milestone for us, and we are thrilled.
Way to go, Jadon! You are such a big boy and we are SO proud of you!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baby Steps (aka Attachment Parenting Sleep Training Part 2)

It has been a rough week in the sleep training realm...but the fact that I'm writing this before 11pm is evidence that things are improving. After 3 weeks of gradually distancing ourselves from Jadon during the final stage of the bedtime routine, I finally took the plunge last Saturday night to move from comfy chair in his room to leaving the room completely. It was an unplanned step stemming from Jim needing to go to bed because of his early morning preaching at church the next day and my being in the middle of taxes and really, really wanting to get them done.
So I tucked Jadon in and told him I would be right down stairs and then left the room (conceding to light on and door open). This actually went a little easier than I expected, with Jadon only coming out to check on me three times...and finally falling asleep by 11:30 pm (and yes, I did finish my taxes...at 2 am...which wasn't so bad because we actually got a refund this year, woohoo!).
Since i made the plunge, I knew I needed to stick with it, and the next night went similarly--about 3 escapes and asleep by 11:30. (nap time went even better, because I was able to exhaust him completely beforehand!). I was considering this fairly successful, because his resistance level was minimal...but the 11:30 time definitely needed improvement.
So night 3 I started setting more boundaries/consequences...which is when things started getting rather horrible with my little strong-willed child. We spent the next 3 nights with an hour and a half of tears and still no sleep before 11. It was heartbreaking! And again, I don't feel like most of the tears were manipulative, rather a little boy's earnest pleas for comfort. So just like when weaning him from the bottle, I tried to figure out how to tailor the cry-it-out approach to my own comfort level. It was still agonizing, but I stayed in the doorway of my room, speaking encouragement and praise to him, occasionally going into his room to retuck him in or soothe his tears momentarily or reassure him how much I love him and how proud I am of him and how much I can't wait to cuddle with him in the morning. Ugh! I hated it. (This totally reassured me that the cry-it-out method wouldn't have worked for jadon when he was an infant...unless I was okay with 2 hours of screaming for a week, which i wasn't...and which most books don't even advocate.)
It's amazing how self-aware Jadon has been throughout all of this. The first night of tears, toward the end, he finally sobbed, "I can't fall asleep! I need help!" At first I thought this might be a ploy, but then, as I watched him laying there trying to keep his eyes closed, I realized that he really hasn't figured it out yet. It is so hard for him to sit still, and laying still enough to fall asleep is even worse. Which is why he will go, go, go like the energizer bunny without seeming at all tired...until I strap him into his car seat and he passes out within seconds. That's why it has always been so much easier for us to cuddle him to sleep, where our arms can gently help him calm down. So as I was watching him try that night, he sat up and said, "mommy, I need *hugging his arms to his chest and bopping his shoulders up and down*" Again, at first I just thought he was being silly, but then after he repeated it, I realized he wanted me to bop him to sleep, something we haven't done for probably over a year! Amazing how he remembered that as one of our go-to sleep solutions for him! (and again making me glad I hadn't made him cry it out and letting him have that as his memory!!) 
The next night, he asked for help again in falling asleep, this time following the request with "mommy, sh!" Seeing as I hadn't been talking anyway, I remained quiet, at which he kept repeating, with increasing urgency and tears, "mommy, shhhh! Mommy, shhhh!" I finally realized he was asking me to shush him to sleep, another one of our go-to's. Fortunately, for this request, we have a little stuffed monkey that a friend gave us that has three sound settings, including one that sounds like a waterfall...or shushing! It's not as good as mom, but jadon is getting used to it.
The next couple nights were Jim's turn, and jadon was asleep by 10:30...with no tears...but Jim stayed in his room until Jadon was almost out (cheater!) and Jadon was exhausted from minuscule naps...but regardless of the reasons, I appreciated the break. 
Tonight--day 8--went hugely better, with only two excursions to our room and one whimper. As I tucked jadon in the second time...with basketball monkey blanket hugging him under his other covers, and garbanzo the giant gorilla hugging him, and sound monkey shushing him...Jadon put on his brave face and closed his eyes tightly and said, "Jesus in my heart," which is what I told him a few nights ago in the midst of the heart-wrenching tears. It might not be theologically correct (yet!) but I had comforted him that Jesus was in his heart so he didn't need to feel lonely or scared. He could feel his heart beating and know that Jesus was with him. And apparently it stuck! And that warms my heart beyond words!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cuddle Cuddle (a.k.a Attachment Parenting Sleep Training)

Since before I was even a parent, I've always had a strong aversion to the cry-it-out sleep training method. No offense to those of you who use it (I know I'm in the minority here!), but it just seems cruel to me. And adopting after years of infertility only drove my convictions deeper--after years of longing to hold a child in my arms, I couldn't think of doing anything BUT swoop him up in my arms whenever his tiny cries rang out.
Which they did often.
It turns out, out little guy LOVES to be held. Before he learned to crawl, he was usually only happy if he was being held...but then he was the happiest kid around. So we made great use of the sling and the Baby Bjorn. And I really didn't mind. Sure, I got tired...and I definitely lamented the days when I was able to just get stuff done. But like I said, I was ecstatic just to finally have a child of my own to hold.

Jadon started crawling right on schedule, and immediately that opened up a whole new world. There were times when he still wanted to be held, but far more often, he wanted the freedom to explore. Crawling turned to climbing turned to walking turned to running, and I must say, in spite of his earlier need to be held constantly (and contrary to the frequent warnings you often hear with a child like that!), he has blossomed into a VERY (maybe TOO!) independent little guy with virtually no fear or timidity about ANYTHING.

He still loves to cuddle, though.
And his nighttime routine still hasn't seen the fruits of that independence.
Around 6 months, we started another habit that most "experts" warn severely against: co-sleeping. Mind you, this wasn't a well-studied, intentional parenting choice, but rather a moment of weakness in our overly-prolonged state of exhaustion. No surprise, Jadon loved it. He slept amazingly better...which meant that so did we. What started as a short-term reprieve from sleeplessness turned into long-term convenience which we kept intending to break but never got around to it. In hindsight, I discovered that we were/are classic Attachment Parenting parents, and there's actually a slew of research to back up the merits of our accidental behavior. Whew!
At 11 months, we finally decided enough was enough on the middle-of-the-night bottle feedings, though, and so I did my hybrid version of the cry-it-out method. I cuddled and soothed Jadon like there was no tomorrow while offering him a bottle of water instead of formula. It took 2 nights of 5 [HORRIBLE] minutes of crying, and he was cured...He was officially sleeping through the night! Yay! (Next child, I will definitely try that one earlier!) Of course, he was still sleeping in our bed, but that didn't seem like much of a problem when we were getting a full 8 hours of shut eye!
Our goal, however, was to transition him back into his crib after he turned 1.
In order to make this transition (sans tears), we went back to "bopping" him to sleep. Normal rocking never worked with him, but "Happiest Baby on the Block" sideways swinging jiggling had always been a miracle worker.
So we would do that every night until he fell asleep (sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour or more), and then we would lay him in his crib and we were free. Sure, we tried other methods, including Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution, but none of them worked for us (Pantley's especially was just too exhausting to keep up).
Of course, that only lasted for a few hours. Inevitably, at some point in the wee hours of the morning, Jadon would wake up alone, and since he clearly had never learned to self-soothe, he needed one of us. Initially, we would just bop him back to sleep, and that would usually work until morning, but that only lasted so long until we rationalized that at least he was starting in his own bed. Was it really so bad if he ended up in ours? Considering the extra sleep it afforded us, we didn't think so, and so we were back to part-time co-sleeping. It's hard to resist not waking up to this cutie:


Around this time (18 months), Jadon learned how to climb out of his crib.
Many parents dread this day, but we actually liked it. Now when he woke up in the middle of the night, instead of waking us up, he would just run (more like a full-steam sprint judging by the sound of the rapid footsteps!) into our room and climb into bed with us. It simplified everything. AND, since we immediately transitioned to the toddler bed form of his crib, that meant that we could just cuddle him to sleep in his bed instead of bopping him to sleep in our arms, which was getting increasingly difficult as he grew bigger.
This worked well for us for the next 6 months, although we kept talking about needing to get him to learn to fall asleep by himself, especially since the cuddling sessions were taking longer and longer for him to fall asleep (seriously, some nights he remained awake until after 11pm...This kid is NOT a sleeper!) (And yes, we have a pretty good nighttime ritual to help him wind down!)
He turned 2 in June, and we decided to buy him his big boy bed.
With high hopes from others' stories, we thought maybe this is what he needed to be okay with sleeping by himself...Well, I'm not so sure it's what he needed, but it sure made our cuddling job easier. With a full twin-sized mattress to stretch out on, Jim and I took turns cuddling Jadon to sleep...which usually meant we fell asleep before he did, often not waking up until almost midnight. Let's just say, that's not so good for a marriage, ha!
So on Sunday night, January 20th, we finally started our toddler sleep training! After scouring the internet for advice for those of us non-cry-it-outers, I found little that really fit our situation, so I kind of tried to conglomerate it all into something that works for us. This is a long term plan, definitely not a quick-fix approach. Two-and-a-half weeks later, we can definitely see improvement, but we don't anticipate crossing the finish line soon. For anyone like me who needs some help in getting your toddler to sleep without cuddling..or crying..., here is what we are doing:
On the 2 or 3 days leading up to launch night, we started excitedly explaining to Jadon that soon he would be learning to fall asleep by himself without needing us to cuddle him, like a big boy (note to self...the "big boy" approach definitely didn't work with him. In the last couple weeks during play times, he has repeatedly wanted to pretend to be my baby and cheerfully told me "I a baby!" I think this is part of the reason potty training failed, too, since that is another activity for "big boys"...After we realized this, we stopped referring to it as something big boys do!).
On launch night, we brought our big comfy papasan chair into his room right next to his bed. (Any chair would work, we just wanted to be as comfortable as possible...and be able to fall asleep comfortably should too much time elapse!) We went through our normal routine, and then sat in the chair holding his hand while singing our usual 2 songs. It actually didn't go so bad, according to Jim. Jim did the first 2 nights, and Jadon was pretty exhausted thanks to a full fun weekend, so he fell asleep pretty quickly.
Then I had night #3 and got to experience it first hand. Oh my goodness, the look in Jadon's eyes when I tucked him in and kissed him goodnight almost broke my heart. His face was smiley as ever, but his eyes exuded this almost-fearful sadness as he accepted the fact that we couldn't cuddle. Seriously, it was one of the saddest moments of my parenting experiences thus far. But I stuck to my guns, and again, he fell asleep holding my hand.
Since that was going so well, the next night we decided to move the chair across the room. And that's where we still are. In the 2 weeks of this stage, we have had some struggles, but we are fine-tuning our approach, and I think it's working. Several nights we were back to the 90 min+ adventure, with Jadon trying to sneak out of bed or jumping around or tossing and turning or talking, etc...A couple of times, after warnings, we had to leave the room and hold the door shut until he laid down quietly in bed. As hard as that has been, the tearful pleas when I've done that are more than enough to keep me firm in my beliefs that I am doing the right thing by not succumbing to the ever-popular cry-it-out method. I can only handle a minute or two of the "Mommy, peeeeeeease! Peeeeeeeease don't lock the door!" Many would call it manipulation, and in some ways, I know it is. But I also know my kid, and I can hear the utter remorse and regret of his actions in his voice. And I am so glad that my method allows me to then walk back into his room, give him kisses and hugs as I tuck him in again, and answer his request to "sit with me" with an okay. And I think he's getting it. The last two nights, although still met with the same heart-breaking sad eyes after his denied request for "mommy, sleep with me," have seen him submissively rolling over and going to sleep rather quickly. He still begs for us to sit with him and not to shut the door, but that is a battle for next week, perhaps.
And for the time being, we are okay with him pitter-pattering into our room in the middle of the night (I actually look forward to that adorable sound!). The cuddle time it ensures is his due reward that we promise him every night now that we aren't cuddling him to sleep. And it seems to be naturally improving. Whereas before, the average time for his middle of the night sprint to our room was between 1 and 2am, the last couple nights it's been after 3 or 4, including two mornings ago when he didn't come over until 5:45, long after Jim was already up. So, I'm thinking that issue might just take care of itself eventually.
And even if it doesn't for awhile, I'm okay with that.
The other morning while we were cuddling and playing "cave" under the sheets after he woke up, he wrapped his squishy arms around my neck and told me, "tuddle, tuddle, tuddle...I happy!" I told him I was happy to cuddle him now, too, and I was so proud of him for learning how to fall asleep without cuddling at night, at which his eyes fell and his lip pouted out and he said softly, "I sad." Ugh, another break your heart moment. But it's way better (in my book) than how sad he would be if we were forcing him to cry it out!
I hope our experiences help some of you other softies out there!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Growing up too fast?

So, last night, Jadon was invited to his first high school party...without us!
Yikes! I thought I still had a few years before dealing with that issue!
One of Austin's friends was having a birthday party, and her mom specifically asked if Jadon could come, too. To be honest, I was shocked that  Austin didn't mind bringing him...let's just say, Jadon has the tendency to be an attention hog. But then again, for a teenage guy going to a party with lots of girls, yeah, Jadon is kind of a good source of attention. :)
So, after a stern lecture about the perils of teenage partying *wink*, we let him go for an hour. Austin was great, carrying his backpack and walking him down the street on his own, and based on Jadon's exuberance when he returned home at 9pm, Jadon had a great time, if not a little too much sugar.

Kind of like his first day of school, I had to get a photo documenting this first party:

Jadon practicing his cool look before the party (he discovered his pockets and has the funniest little pose!):

Accepting Defeat (a.k.a. Adventures in Potty Training Part 2)

Well, it's official.
After 6 days of concerted effort, I have conceded my potty training activities for the time being.
And I must say, both jadon and I seem a lot happier.
We truly gave it our best shot, but apparently the window I was afraid of missing was never open to begin with. And I am totally okay with that. It sure didn't help that Day 2 (Saturday)  Jadon woke up with a nasty cold and was a never-ending snot faucet for the next 36 hours. He obviously didn't feel very good, and who wants to learn something new when you feel sick? I sure don't. He survived that day with a few successes, and then Sunday morning my mom stayed home with him from church and introduced lollipops into the mix, and that was a huge game changer, but he was getting more stressed the more days went by.

 Then Jim was gone for a pastors' retreat Tuesday and Wednesday, and after nap on Wednesday, I just couldn't bring myself to take off the diaper. Mind you, Jadon had had zero accidents that morning, but neither had he drank much, and I was concerned he was getting dehydrated. So after nap, I didn't mention diaper or potty, and he started drinking more, and seeming less irritable. We had Bible study that night, so a diaper made sense again since I just didn't have the energy to keep doing the potty reminders on my own. Good thing, too, because in the course of the next 2 hours, he had 3 (!) poops, and if that would have happened in underwear, I'm pretty sure I would have dissolved into a puddle of tears at that point. Then Thursday, we went to Legoland, and that is definitely not a fun place to potty train.
So, yeah, I'm done... for now at least. Maybe I'll try again in a couple more weeks, maybe a couple more months. For me, diapers are much more convenient anyway, so I'm in no rush. And the more I tell people, the more I'm discovering that I'm not the only parent who fails at the 3-day method. :)
And in celebration of that glorious fact, here are some pictures from our very enjoyable diapered day at Legoland...

And isn't this seriously the cutest picture of Jadon and Molly! 
Kristen and I ran around the corner trying to keep up, and this is what we found. Fortunately, she was quick enough to capture it on camera. :) Jadon slowed down long enough to walk with Molly for almost a full 30 seconds, which is like an eternity in his book, ha!

A Little Christmas in January...

Who's with me that the Christmas season is just a little too hectic?
It's such a fun time with so many opportunities for fun activities, but there are still only 24 hours in the day, and plenty of mundane activities like laundry and cooking dinner to occupy them. Therefore, there are many fun activities left undone in our household. Like the gingerbread house kit a friend gave us.
Fast forward to this week. Trying to think of some fun things to do with Jadon to promote bonding in the midst of all the potty training stress, my eyes alighted on the gingerbread kit still sitting on our kitchen counter. Perfect! (Little did I know that it required an entire day between building the house and decorating it. Urg! But I guess that just gave us TWO days of quality time!)

Before and during the project, I had to keep reminding myself that this was about quality time, NOT a designer showpiece. Maybe that's easy for some of you guys, but for me, it was quite a challenge. But I think Jadon still managed to have fun. And the house still came out pretty decent in spite of me relinquishing some control. It turns out, Jadon's favorite part was just "painting" the house with watered down icing (he's been painting a bunch at my parents' new (old!) house).
Can you tell whose side is who's? (ooh, English teacher moment...I can't remember if it's"whose" or "who's." Ack!)